For Memorial Day: A memorable vocabulary activity

Certain sets of vocabulary can challenge students. For example, an exercise in a grammar book might contain both get over and get across, and the use of the same verb in each phrase might create confusion. There are also reading selections that present vocabulary related to a single theme such as jury, judge, oath, and verdict, making it possible to mix up jury with judge and oath with verdict. The key is to consistently contextualize the words. By using the words in phrases if not complete sentences, students must demonstrate knowledge of parts of speech. Is oath a noun or a verb? Can judge be both a person and an action? The second thing to encourage is use of collocations. Look how the word is presented in the book and note common phrases: swear an oath, pronounce the verdict, etc.

In honor of Memorial Day, you can present holiday-related vocabulary and teach your students the importance of contextualizing new words and noting collocations.

Activity:               War Stories

Level:                   Intermediate to advanced

Objective:           To practice war-related vocabulary in context

Materials needed:  8 or more photos (headshots are best) of adults who students can imagine as “veterans”.

STEP 1 – Prepare a list of 5-6 words you want to target with your students. Suggestions: military, combat, casualty, wound, veteran, medal

STEP 2 – Ask students to call out words they associate with war. List them according to their parts of speech. Possible suggestions:

·         Soldiers, army, death, fighting, guns…             = NOUNS

·         March, shoot, defend…                                       = VERBS

·         Scary, powerful…                                                 = ADJECTIVES

Once the lists are recorded, ask students to identify the parts of speech.

STEP 3 – Replace suggested words with the targeted ones if they are synonymous. Then add the rest. The new lists could then look like this:

·         Soldiers, military, casualty, combat, wound, veteran, medal

·         March, shoot, defend, combat, wound                

·         Scary, powerful, military, wounded       

Define the new vocabulary, taking care to note pronunciation.                                 

STEP 4 – Have students work together in twos or threes. Each small group should receive a photo of a “veteran”. Their task is to make a short story using the new vocabulary words. Hand out a list of questions to guide this process. Each question cues the students how to use the word in a sentence.

Example:             1. What is this veteran’s name?

                                2. How long was s/he in the military?

                                3. How was s/she wounded in combat?

                                4. Were there any casualties among his/her friends?

                                5. For what reason was s/he awarded a medal?

STEP 5 – Have students share their war stories with the class. Teacher and peer feedback can be provided following each reading.


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